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Kolochava, a village-museum

 

Natalya OBOLENSKA, a journalist, went to the village of Kolochava in Zakarpattya (Transcarpathia), Western Ukraine, to be present at the ceremony of unveiling a new open-air museum, Village of Old Times, created in the vicinity of Kolochava, and she relates here what she saw and experienced.

 

It was in the middle of June that I took a night train to get from Kyiv to Zakarpattya. In the morning, when I woke up, I saw the mountains that I love so much in the distance; neat peasant houses, stacks of hay, green fields and grassy knolls adorned with wild flowers were flashing by. The sight of the mountains made my soul sing. There were many hues of the green color on the forested slopes of the mountains. Among the trees I could spot well-tended vegetable gardens; the water in lakes sparkled invitingly.

The creation of the Village of Old Times open-air museum, the first of its kind in that area, was initiated and brought to completion by Stanislav Arzhevitin, an MP who hails from Kolochava.

I arrived just in time for the opening ceremony. A banner was hoisted, the solid wooden gate was pushed open and the guests were welcomed in by Mr Arzhevitin and Vasyl Maleta, a local who knows a lot about the history of the village and of the whole area.

The traditional ribbon was cut, the welcoming bread and salt were presented to the guests of whom there were quite a few. In the museum we saw authentic peasant houses of old, a house where the wood-cutter lived, a small building of the local police of the times when the area was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, a well with crystal-clear cold water. Sheep and lambs could be seen grazing in the field nearby. Those who felt like it could take a horse-back ride — the horses were of the local stocky Hutsul breed. Fresh, warm milk could be had with home-made bread and pampushky (bread rolls). An old-style water mill and some other things are still under construction. The air was salubrious, the landscape breathtakingly beautiful.

Shortly after the opening ceremony was over, a film crew began shooting a film, Kolochavsky povstantsi (Insurgents from Kolochava), on location right in the museum. The scenery was just right. The film will tell a story of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) soldiers fighting against the Red Army and KGB units at the closing stages of WWII and for some years after the war. The hosts, guests and Kolochava villagers were invited to take part in filming as extras. Ukrainian traditional embroidered shirts and dresses and uniforms, those of the UPA soldiers and those of the Red Army and KGB units, were distributed and donned. Everything looked very authentic and colorful. Among the extras were the journalists who had come to attend the opening ceremony. I also wanted to join in but I was too late — all the women dresses had been distributed by the time I made up my mind to try myself in the capacity of an extra.

Kolochava is a very big village which is situated in the valley of the River Tereblya which is fed by several tributaries. The village has two secondary and several elementary schools, three Orthodox churches and a Greek Catholic Church. The villagers are proud and fiercely independent people who know how to take care of their affairs and how to run their community without undue interference from the outside. The establishment of the strong local self-government is attributed to Mykola Shuhay (1898–1921), a man of rebellious nature who promoted local self-government. There was a lot written about him, a novel by a Czech writer included. There was even a film made about him in 1947.

Stanislav Arzhevitin, a native of Kolochava, is not only the founder of the Village of Old Times open-air museum — he collects archival documents and whatever information he can find about Kolochava. He is planning to publish a ten-volume collection of documents and history of Kolochava, of which two volumes have already been published. He has founded two more museums in Kolochava, Stara shkola (School of Old Times), and Shkola vivcharstva (School of Sheep Breeding), and he says he wants to set up some other museums too.

Tourism to Kolochava will surely benefit from his untiring efforts. It is a place of a great scenic beauty and it is surely worth visiting.

 

Photos by Oleh HERTZ

 

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